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The Economics of Steam Vs. Electric Pipe Heating
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To properly design a pipe heating system, the basic principles of heat transfer from an insulated pipe must be understood. The three methods of heat flow are conduction, convection (both forced and natural) and radiation. The total heat loss from a pipe must be determined first, since this is the heat which must be replaced to maintain a pipe at a given temperature. A steam heating system requires an analysis of the heat loss from the pipe as well as an analysis of the capacity of the heating system. The economics of steam heat include the accessories as well as the inefficiencies of steam heat. The design of an electric heating system normally involves far fewer components and engineering complexities than does a comparable steam system. The basic system is comprised of the heater, controls and connection accessories. Today there are several economic trade-offs to be made in selecting a pipe heating system. These involve engineering and design costs, maintenance costs, installation costs and energy costs. The economic trade-offs to be made in selecting a pipe heating system do not universally favor one system over another for all cases.
Schilling, R. E. (1985). The Economics of Steam Vs. Electric Pipe Heating. Energy Systems Laboratory (http://esl.tamu.edu). Available electronically from